OPINION: Be careful what you wish for in Netanyahu’s trials

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OPINION: Be careful what you wish for in Netanyahu’s trials

Barrister David Wolchover urges Israelis to remain cognisant of wider consequences in relentless legal fight against Israel's prime minister in waiting.

Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with President Joe Biden from his office in Jerusalem, Nov. 7, 2022. (Office of Benjamin Netanyahu.)
Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with President Joe Biden from his office in Jerusalem, Nov. 7, 2022. (Office of Benjamin Netanyahu.)

Five years ago, Counsel magazine, the monthly journal of the English and Welsh Bar, published an analysis of why the then prime minister Theresa May’s triggering of Article 50 to activate Brexit was legally invalid. 

Unusually, the editors ran a poll of its barrister and judicial readers, well over 80 percent of whom agreed with the argument.

The article inspired a crowd-funded action in the High Court against the government.

David Wolchover

Though unsuccessful, it elicited a judgment by the court that, paradoxically, laid the clear foundation for proving that, in the circumstances, triggering Article 50 rather than being invalid was– far worse! – unlawful.

In a consequent further analysis published in the legal press, it was contended Mrs May had activated the process knowing she should not have done so and this constituted misconduct in public office, a common law indictable-only offence carrying a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

I applied for a summons at Westminster Magistrate’s Court and the deputy senior district judge for England and Wales reserved the application for a full oral hearing.

The Times and The Sunday Times covered the news. Supporters in their droves sent good wishes. At last, it seemed, we Remainers might be in with a shout. Then reality dawned.

With all those Brexiteer meshuggeners roaming the country, I feared for my safety and that of my family.

Reluctantly I withdrew the summons, citing bad timing and stating that we Remainers would wait for co-accused Boris to become PM.

But the reality was that it just wasn’t worth it. I took heed of Aesop, the ancient Greek writer of fables.

Not so the Israeli police and prosecutors, who have relentlessly pursued Benjamin Netanyahu to indictment and trial for corruption.

I have argued in this newspaper – somewhat facetiously I admit, but with serious intent and wearing my defending barrister’s wig – that there are good reasons for considerable doubt about the cogency of all three of the cases against him.

Oddly enough, there is rather more troubling suspicion of fraud arising from a Texas company share-deal indirectly linked to the only case of the four investigated that has not led to any charges against him, the so-called “submarine case” or case 3000.

I do not know what has been driving the senior police investigators and prosecutors involved in these matters.

Is it the disinterested desire to right wrongs? To see justice done? To clean up public affairs? Netanyahu claims the prosecution is “politically motivated”.

Nonsense. It is much more basic than that.

Almost certainly it is engendered by the career-building aspirations of the investigators and prosecutors of the sort to which most professionals are prone. At 75, I’m beginning to get over it. But those Yiddisher police? Targeting the prime minister? Wow! That’ll put a feather in their caps.

Netanyahu was not in power for 12 years for nothing. As the most dominating and charismatic figure in Israeli politics, his support remains legendary.

It was always on the cards that Netanyahu, as a former centre-right liberal, would have to hitch up with the religious extremists to secure immunity from due process.

Princeton professor Daniel Kurtzer’s suggestion in Haaretz last month that Netanyahu could stop the trial by forming a unity government with Yair Lapid, Benny Gantz and others was pure wishful thinking.

And so coalition with the crazies has inevitably come to pass, with who knows what consequences for Israel, the Palestinians, the Middle East and Ukraine, among others.

Those police and prosecutors would have been wise to follow Aesop too: be careful what you wish for.


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